‘Coming Home in the Dark’ review: No picnic

‘Coming Home in the Dark’ review: No picnic
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‘Coming Home in the Dark’ review: No picnic

‘Coming Home in the Dark’ review: No picnic

More often than not, movies set and shot in the Antipodes make a convincing case that one should never leave their home. Think scenarios like “Wake in the Fret” (Kangaroo and crazy running amok), “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (missing girls-school adventurers), “A Cry in the Dark” (Dingo, Baby). Directed by James Ashcroft from a script co-written with Eli Kent (based on a short story by Owen Marshall), “Coming Home in the Dark” doesn’t take long to demonstrate that sometimes New Zealand’s high places have a flair. Not worth the day trip.

Beginning with an ominous shot of a Mercedes abandoned on the side of the road, “Coming Home” follows a family of four in a different vehicle. In the back seat, the sons of Jill (Miriyama McDowell) and Hoga (Eric Thomson), contemplate the music. Other than that, everything is friendly and nice. Until the family lays blankets at the picnic spot.

Then along comes Mandrake (Daniel Gillies), a hairy fellow whose long, earth-colored overcoat makes him look like he’s out of a spaghetti western. A little behind him is Tubs (Matthias Luafutu), a Maori man. The tub is exceptionally quiet. Mandrake takes a rifle and talks enough for the two of them.

So begins a frightening feature-length examination of Hoggy’s past. Between the excruciatingly suspenseful set pieces, themes of sin, guilt, and atonement get a slant workout.

While the whole thing is brutally well done, it also occasionally leans into a kind of moral relativism. Gillies’ performance as Mandrake, while remarkable in its own way, radiates a kind of movie-killer calm that isn’t quite square with the vengeful outrage that inspired the character.

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coming home in the dark
not evaluated. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Available to rent or buy in theaters and on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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